Middle Tennessee beats Southern Miss 42-32

By Mary Foster/The Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Dwight Dasher limped off the field twice during the New Orleans Bowl, though his ankle injury really didn’t seem to slow him down.

The Middle Tennessee quarterback provided 363 of the Blue Raiders 450 yards of offense and four touchdowns in their 42-32 victory over Southern Mississippi on Sunday night.

Dasher rushed 26 times for a New Orleans Bowl-record 201 yards and two touchdowns, and completed 15 of 25 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. His rushing total was the highest by a quarterback in a bowl game, surpassing the 200 that Vince Young had for Texas against USC in the 2006 Rose Bowl.

It was enough to make him forget his tender left ankle.

“I told coach that it was no kind of injury,” Dasher said. “Unless something was broke, I was going back in.”

Dasher also became the ninth player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season.

“Obviously, it was difficult stopping him,” Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said. “We knew going in that he was a heck of a player, and he showed that tonight. We sent him out a great player. He single-handedly did it against us.”

Middle Tennessee (10-3), playing in the second bowl game in school history, concluded its best season since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1999 with a seven-game winning streak and its first bowl victory.

“Dwight was hurt a lot more than he let on,” Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said. “His performance is an example of what our team stands for — no matter what, if you can walk you’re going to get out there and play that next down.”

Southern Miss (7-6) was playing in its eighth straight bowl game and 12th in the last 13 seasons. The Golden Eagles had won their three previous New Orleans Bowls, including an overtime win against Troy last season.

Martevious Young completed 18 of 34 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns for Southern Miss. He also threw two interceptions.

Golden Eagles running back Damion Fletcher ran for 78 yards to finish the season with 1,015 and become the ninth player in major college football to reach 1,000 in all four seasons.

He did it despite a hamstring injury that caused him to sit out one game this season.

With 5,302 yards rushing overall, Fletcher passed Herschel Walker (5,259) and LaDainian Tomlinson (5,263) for eighth on the NCAA’s career list.

“It was great to be up there in the company with those eight or nine guys,” Fletcher said. “I worked really hard and it means a lot to me. It was great playing and being a Golden Eagle.”

Southern Miss started strong, scoring on their first possession as Tory Harrison rushed for a 2-yard touchdown. On their second possession, the Golden Eagles stretched the lead to 14-0 on a 24-yard reception by DeAndre Brown.

The Blue Raiders pulled even in the second quarter on an 11-yard reception by Garrett Anders, and — after Alex Suber intercepted Young’s pass on the Southern Miss 12 — a 9-yard TD catch by Shane Blissard.

Southern Miss held a 17-14 edge at halftime thanks to Daniel Hrapmann’s 20-yard field goal as time expired.

Dasher opened the third quarter with a 35-yard touchdown run. When Dasher left briefly with an ankle injury, Brent Burnette capped 76-yard scoring drive with a 23-yard TD pass to Chris McClover.

Hrapmann hit a 38-yard field goal to cut the Blue Raiders’ lead to eight at 28-20 at the end of three quarters.

Southern Miss had a chance to tie it early in the fourth, pulling to 28-26 on DeAndre’s 7 yard TD reception, but the 2-point conversion failed.

Benjamin Cunningham and Dasher ran for touchdowns to put it out of reach for Middle Tennessee.

Southern Miss added a final score with 27 seconds left to pull within 10.